Escape From Distraction City

Lisbon has just made its annual transition from puddle to furnace, which knocked my willpower down to about zero, and thus, for the past week or so, distraction has reigned.

I’ve been getting so sidetracked on the laptop that no actual writing was getting done until the last possible moment every day. I was feeling obliged to sit my ass at my desk and white-knuckle it for as long as it took, even though I know I never do well with that kind of self-flagellation.

Unsurprisingly, screaming into the finish line, feeling frustrated and freaked out, is not the best way to get great work done.

I was so crabby yesterday about how little interesting writing was coming out that I slammed my laptop shut and took my notebook outside in a huff. The sun slowly burned off all my angst, and two hours later, a dozen good pages had appeared.

It’s not the fastest way to write, but compared to writing nothing at all, I’ll take that any day.

This has reminded me once again that it’s not hard discipline, it’s not heady waves of inspiration, nor is it having some muse-worthy process that makes for a good day of writing — it’s paying attention to where you’re at (both physically and psychologically) and changing it if it’s not working.

Or, in a word, it’s about adaptability.

Writing changes day to day, because who we are changes day to day.

While having a go-to habit or routine is definitely useful, some days it’s too hot or too boring or too glorious outside for it to get you in the right headspace.

So give yourself permission to change it up. If you’re feeling flat, if you have no fresh ideas or insights, if distractions are making you crazy, just get outta there.

Go somewhere that gives you a little zing of energy, or an enveloping sense of calm. Decide before you head out what you’re going to write about, leave your devices behind, and just take your pen and a notebook.

It’s up to you where you go, and it might change each time.

It could be a beach or your favourite spot in the woods. It could be a cafe, a park bench, a busy corner of the city. It could be your terrace or the sun trap in the living room that you might have to fight your pet for.

Wherever it is that you arrive, don’t sit there feeling uptight and guilty that you’re not still at your desk.

Let yourself enjoy it. Be present. Take deep breaths and let your subconscious start to relax with every out-breath and every new line you write.

It might not be the fastest writing you’ve ever done. It might not be the most perfectly structured writing you’ve ever done. It might not be the most complete version of what you’re writing about.

But it will be writing, and it will feel good, and it will get you past whatever was making you stuck. Sometimes that’s all we can ask for, and most of the time, it’s enough.